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Dispersal in spatially explicit population models

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Andrew South


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Ruckelshaus et al. (1997) outlined a simulation model of dispersal between patches in a fragmented landscape. They showed that dispersal success - the proportion of dispersers successfully locating a patch - was particularly sensitive to errors in dispersal mortality and concluded that this limits the utility of spatially explicit population models in conservation biology. I contend that, although they explored error propagation in a simple dispersal model, they did not explore how errors are propagated in spatially explicit population models, as no consideration of population processes was included. I developed a simple simulation model to investigate the effect of varying dispersal success on predictions of patch occupancy and population viability, the conventional outputs of spatially explicit population models. The model simulates births and deaths within habitat patches and dispersal as the transfer of individuals between them. Model predictions were sensitive to changes in dispersal success across a restricted range of within-patch growth rates, which depended on the dispersal initiation mechanism, patch carrying capacities, and number of generations simulated. Predictions of persistence and patch occupancy were generally more sensitive to changes in dispersal success (1) under presaturation rather than saturation dispersal; (2) at lower patch carrying capacities; and (3) over longer time periods. The framework I present provides a means of assessing, quantitatively, the regions of parameter space for which differences in dispersal success are likely to have a large effect on population model outputs. Investigating the effect of the representation of dispersal behavior within the demographic and landscape context provides a more useful assessment of whether our lack of knowledge is likely to cause unacceptable uncertainty in the predictions of spatially explicit population models.

Publication metadata

Author(s): South A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Conservation Biology

Year: 1999

Volume: 13

Issue: 5

Pages: 1039-1046

Print publication date: 01/10/1999

ISSN (print): 0888-8892

ISSN (electronic): 1523-1739

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.


DOI: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.1999.98236.x


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